4 Ways to Combat Video Call Fatigue

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Picture13“Zoom Fatigue” colloquially refers to all forms of video conferencing and refers to the exhaustion you feel from a long day of video calls.

The Way You See Others

In an in-person meeting, your eyes bounce from the speaker to your notes or around the space the meeting is held in. When you’re in a teleconference, there is only one place to look. You’re staring straight into the eyes of the presenter or other people on the call. This prolonged or extended eye contact isn’t natural for human beings. We don’t typically focus our attention on one person’s face for the entirety of a conversation. This can trigger feelings of social anxiety or feel like public speaking with all eyes on you. 

In addition to staring at them consistently, we are also experiencing their size in unrealistic proportions. In “real space,” as we’ll call it, if someone’s face were that close to ours, we would feel threatened or intimidated. This triggers a stress response, no matter how small it is. Over time those micro-stressors can build up, leading to an overall feeling of malaise. 

How to avoid this:

One of the best ways to make the situation less intimidating overall is to reduce the size of the screen. Taking your call out of full-screen and making it smaller will make it feel less like the person/people are standing toe to toe and will reduce the feeling of intimate eye contact.

The Way You See Yourself

In a typical day in our old lives, the number of times we saw our faces was minimal. We interacted with our own image while getting ready for the day, in the restroom, or as we passed a store window, but we didn’t actively gaze at our own faces for hours on end. Once again, in the world of the video call, it is taxing for our brains to be bombarded with seeing ourselves. We become more critical of our appearances and can feel increased feelings of inadequacy.

How to avoid this:

This is a pretty simple fix. In your settings, utilize the “hide self-view” function. This allows you to appear on the screens of others without having to see yourself. It’s a win-win situation and keeps you engaged with other participants instead of simply turning off your camera altogether. 

Reduced Mobility

Again, when we held in-person meetings, we often had breaks between appointment times which allowed us to get up and stretch or walk to another location. We could take a moment to go to the coffee station, where we would bump into other team members to chat for a moment and catch up. Now we’re often in back-to-back-to-back meetings with little to no breaks in between. We are physically stationary while our brains are expected to work at break-neck speeds to ingest a constant barrage of information and ideas. Take a look at your daily step count and compare it to when you were physically in the office. The chances that your movement has drastically declined are very high. 

How to avoid this:

Rethink your space. Your laptop may have a built-in camera but consider adding an external camera and setting it further away from your setup. Give yourself some space to stand during meetings, perhaps pace a little or even doodle in the margin of your notebook. You could periodically turn off your camera in a pinch to stand and stretch if your body is calling for it. Making your physical comfort a priority is beneficial to your mental wellbeing too.

Your Brain is Working Overtime

Communication is so much more than just speaking and listening. In a face-to-face situation, we as humans use a variety of non-verbal cues to communicate. This all happens subconsciously and takes the pressure off our conscious minds to analyze the sub context of the conversation. The subtlety of our movements are often lost in a video setting. We must overcompensate and exaggerate our expressions and gestures. A quick nod may have done the trick in person, but now we are giving more apparent cues like thumbs up or verbalizing our agreement. Our brains are working harder than ever to navigate social interactions. It is only adding to our overall stress levels.

How to avoid this:

Much like combatting mobility constraints, turning off your cameras as a group for audio-only meetings can alleviate the added challenge of interpreting non-verbal communication. Removing the stress of reading facial expressions stops our minds from multitasking. It allows us to be present in the conversation.

Another great way to reduce these feelings is to block off parts of your day for recovery. Set time aside for some screen-free time, a walk, or other non-video-related activity that will help you decompress. After a year of regular video calls, it is perfectly normal to feel burnt out, listless and unenthusiastic about the entire situation. These actions should help reduce the stress you feel when you head into your next virtual meeting. 

Tianna Brown

Tianna Brown
Senior Communications Specialist



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